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March 4, 2013

Main Street breathes new life into Pryor

Through the hard work of some passionate people, Pryor is the newest town to be accepted to the Oklahoma Main Street Program.

“This is not a one person deal. Countless hours of work, organization and conversation made it happen in seven months,” said Travis Noland, one of the people instrumental in seeing the project through.

The process generally takes a community over a  year to complete, which is further proof that Pryorites are

passionate about their community.

Noland said the project started with the right people meeting up at the right time.

“I’ve been thinking that we need to treasure our downtown and put our focus there. With organization and effort, it could be that much stronger,” said Noland.

“I’ve been wanting to see this happen for Pryor for years. I knew the project needed to have the support of the chamber, but be a separate organization. I was so grateful people stepped up. It was a combination of the perfect people and perfect timing,” said Pryor Area Chamber of Commerce Director Barbara Hawkins, who is another key player in the project.

“I think business owners are going to get excited,” said Lisa Melchior, who worked to bring the Main Street Program to Pryor. “I think businesses downtown will want to be a part of the economic structure.”

In determining eligibility for the program, a representative of Oklahoma Main Street Program went door to door to gauge support of the community. What she found was a supportive, involved community ready for change.

The Main Street Program came to Pryor through community involvement and hard work, but what is it?

The program takes a four-point approach: Organization, promotion, design and economic restructuring.

“As far as organization, it needs to be run by a successful executive director who has energy and looks at the end game. A strong, developing downtown is the end goal and we will get there by attracting the businesses people want,” said Noland.

Melchior says the Main Street Program will help by completing a study to determine what types of businesses the community needs.

Promotion is all about building a sense of community downtown. Bringing people together for events downtown will restore the feeling that main street is the heart of the city.

“Economic restructuring is a major focus,” said Noland. “There will be a lot of attention paid to zoning and regulation while looking to provide businesses with what they need and bringing in new businesses the community wants.”

He said some cities in this program have an ordinance which prevents business owners from boarding up the second floor windows of two-story store fronts.

Design simply means getting the main street into top physical shape. This means capitalizing on the city’s best assets. The Oklahoma Main Street Program provides examples, such as attractive window displays, parking areas, building improvements, street furniture, signs, sidewalks, street lights and landscaping.

Now that Pryor’s in the program, the community can look forward to what comes next.

“One goal is to not have a vacant lot in downtown,” said Noland. “The more we bring to town that people want, the more valuable the property next to it becomes.”

He said the goal is preservation, “revitalize, not rebuild,” he said.

“My background is in preservation, I’m on the Preservation Oklahoma Board,” said Melchior. “The Main Street Program wants to revitalize downtown and bring it back to life, not build a new one.

“It’s the green thing to do anyway,” said Melchior. “You can’t duplicate that kind of architecture now. It all tells a story, the story of our town.”

Melchior said the program wants to help the town remain true to its roots, while giving newcomers a glimpse into Pryor’s history.

“Main street (Graham) has a history and a charm and we want to enhance that,” said Melchior.

“Another goal is to have something everyone is proud of, this helps build the community,” said Noland.

“One big advantage to this program is access to state programs. They’ll come in and ask, ‘what does this business need?’ Then they help them with it,” said Noland. “If the business needs it, they’ll help find it.”

One example he cites is an architect providing renderings of building renovations. This provides the business owner with a comprehensive idea of the improvements that could be made to their store front, as well as a list of necessary supplies.

Another goal is to brand the city of Pryor.

“This really means determining ‘What do we want to be seen as?’ How do we want to market our town,” said Noland.

The three encourage the community to share their ideas for Graham Street on the official Pryor Main Street Facebook page.

“I’ve really enjoyed seeing the stories people are putting on our Facebook page. They are posting pictures of historic downtown, while sharing ideas for the future. It’s great to see the community so passionate and excited,” said Melchior. “The public is also welcome to attend the Main Street Public Orientation, Wednesday, March 13, at the Graham Community Building from 6 until 8 p.m.”

The first step will be to appoint an executive director. After that, the committee will organize a clean-up day.

“We want to do this right from the very beginning,” said Noland.

“We’re fortunate in this town, we have groups that really work well together. We have so much richness here,” said Hawkins.

Teamwork, volunteers and pledges are crucial to the program.

“We will get out of this what we put into it,” said Melchior.

Hawkins, Noland and Melchior are all eager to get things underway,

“It’s going to be a lot of fun to see how things turn out,” Noland said.

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